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Good Conduct Policies - Appeal

Published April 2014

Here is recent good conduct appeal where the State Board of Education recently ruled in favor of the student.  This case is a reminder to school boards to be careful about the specific language used in your good conduct policies.  Here is a summary of the facts of this case:

In Re: T.B., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 483 (March 6, 2014)
In re T.B. involved a student, T.B., who was a member of the local high school cross country team that attended the Iowa State Cross Country championships in November of 2013.  T.B. and several team members who attended the championships stayed in a motel overnight.  While staying at the motel an incident occurred involving paintballs and damage to one of the motel rooms.  Several students were interviewed by the coach and admitted their involvement in the incident.  T.B. was not interviewed or implicated in the behavior resulting in damages.  T.B. was, however, present in the motel room when the damages occurred.  The athletic director later interviewed T.B. and T.B. denied any involvement in the incident.  

Subsequently, T.B. was suspended for 30 days for a violation of the school’s good conduct policy on the rationale that T.B. committed “exceedingly inappropriate or offensive conduct” under the policy because T.B. did not report the incident to his coach or motel management.  The district broadly construed this rule to include a requirement to inform on team members who violate the good conduct policy.  However, nothing in this rule provided notice to a student that they are required to do so.  The State Board found that it would broadly construe the good conduct policy; however, the board could not find that the policy encompassed T.B.’s conduct.  Thus, the State Board reversed the decision of the local board and ordered the student’s record to be stripped of the violation.

The lesson here for school districts is that your good conduct rules should clearly state the behavior that is prohibited so that a reasonable high school student or the parents reading the rules understands what is prohibited.  

See the full decision:

In Re: T.B., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 483 (March 6, 2014)